Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – and the Importance of Embarking on Our Individual Unlearning Journeys, Together

“There is no ‘normal’ – There is no normal hair, normal skin tone, normal cup sizes or body types, normal backgrounds – and JEDI for me it as much about diversifying normal, challenging our bias on what normal is.” – Thandi Allin Dyani

diversity
Photo: Christina Wocintech for Unsplash

There have been a few panels, keynotes and workshop moderations the last month or so. They have all been centered around the growing interest on EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion), or JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion). I find this momentum so great, and I get to meet so many inspiring people along this journey. There’s also a lot of resistance but willingness to really dive deep into the subject – that somehow is so very personal, organisational and systemic at the same time

For me Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is not a choice you can just make because it has PR value, or simply to work towards the 50/50 split of women/men in leadership roles in a company – after which point, you’re done. If you ask me, JEDI is fundamental for us as people to have a peaceful and just future. For me, it’s really a life perspective! It’s an unlearning journey that everyone must take.

At nearly 44, some things about my own possibilities in life and my lived experiences are only just becoming clear as I write. This journey towards social justice should be something we all aspire for. It’s for all women, men, and people, regardless of race, country or creed. We are all, and can all, learn something on a personal level about ourselves and others on this JEDI journey.

As many know, we can no longer only count on governments to solve injustices as they present themselves to marginalised and disadvantaged groups. Businesses play a huge role in this transformation, and it’s really through using diversity and inclusion as a tool that we can start. The world expects more, and it deserves more too. But how do businesses change? Well, it starts with you, and me! It starts with us as people, interconnected in one organism.

If you have heard me speak in one of the events mentioned at the top, you might have heard this sentence: that I am sorry to tell you, but our notion of ‘normal’ is over!

antiracism | inclusion | justice

There is no ‘normal’ – There is no normal hair, normal skin tone, normal cup sizes or body types, normal backgrounds – and JEDI for me it as much about diversifying normal, challenging our bias on what normal is: with age, gender, race, language, back grounds, socio economic status, birth place, education, LGBTQIA + etc. Give it up, and start thinking ‘normal’ is in the eye of the beholder and is conditioned by our lived experiences and positions of privilege.

Blindness to our privileges informs our perceptions of a person or social group, and can influence our decision-making and behaviour towards people. It’s formed by our socialisation, our experiences, and by our exposure (or lack of exposure) to others’ views. This often results in inaccurate judgments rooted in our own life experiences. It eventually gives certain individuals and groups both unearned advantages and unearned disadvantage in all of our workplaces, and in the products and services we sell. So to fully understand an unjust society, we must try and understand the system in which we find ourselves; and to do that, we need to begin by fully understand own positions and privileges.

Accepting our own positions of privilege, and acknowledging differences, are crucial steps in mitigating bias – and that really matters in the possibilities we have and create for others, because we are all gate keepers for other people (and we must remember that). Creating social equity, and challenging these positions, is more complex than most of us think. It’s not only about providing fair shares to previously disadvantaged groups through some corporate strategy; it’s also about really understanding how our systems became what they are, what has shaped our views and positions within it, and what it takes to change the fundamentals in a way that accommodates and acknowledges human differences as real positive assets of our societies, organisations and relationships. 

So UBUNTU – We are one, interconnected! Let’s start our individual journeys together.

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